Category: Seattle Mariners

Dormant Deadline

Dormant Deadline

It’s what others did at the 2017 trade deadline that may help the Seattle Mariners make the playoffs.

Mariner’s general manager Jerry DiPoto is as active as any in baseball. He trades early and often. In July, he made three fairly minor trades acquiring David Phelps, Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez. All three moves were made with the team’s future in mind.

The Mariners needed help on the mound and were shopping for starting pitchers. They were linked to Oakland Athletic pitcher Sonny Gray. Gray was acquired by the Yankees for three prospects. Another starter on the market was Yu Darvish. He’s a Dodger now, as the Texas Rangers picked up a trio of prospects for him.

Why are those trades important?

In the final two months of the season, the M’s have 15 games against the Rangers and Athletics. You can assume the Mariners would have faced Darvish or Gray four times within those 15 games.

Every game matters, but those down feel extra important. At 2.5 games not having to face Darvish or Gray may be more important than acquiring one of them.

They Traded Him For Who?

They Traded Him For Who?

It started yesterday, but it got weird today.

The Seattle Mariners traded Tyler O’Neil, their third best prospect, to the St. Louis Cardinals for left handed pitcher Marco Gonzales. Gonzales was slated to be the next big thing in 2014 before he had surgery in 2015 to repair a torn left pectoral muscle. It got worse when he missed 2016 due to Tommy John surgery.

So Jerry DiPoto really just traded the third best prospect in the organization for a broken down pitcher?

What?

Gonzales was a the 19th overall pick in 2013. He attended Gonzaga, and lives in Seattle during the offseason. He’s spent this year in Triple A Memphis. The lefty has made 11 starts, going 6-4 with a 2.90 ERA. He’s struck out 57 batters while allowing 17 walks. Gonzales is controllable through the 2023 season.

It doesn’t get much more DiPoto than this trade. He’s getting what he wants out of a pitcher, a strike thrower that doesn’t walk guys. He’s also controllable for a long, long time.

Mariners fans had hoped that O’Neil was going to be the key piece in a major trade that landed a significant asset to this team. Realistically this team is floating around .500 and is playing for a shot at a wild card. A three month rental, especially with a player who pitches every five games doesn’t make a ton of sense. It’s something Dipoto has made obvious that he believes in.

The trade boils down to two teams needing something. The Mariners have become incredibly deep in the outfield. Jarrod Dyson, Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia have combined to prevent the most runs of any outfield in baseball. Gamel, Haniger and Heredia are guys who are controllable through the early 2020’s. There’s not a lot of room for any additional outfielders.

On the mound, the M’s need help. They’ve stitched together a starting rotation that has kept them in the hunt. Marco Gonzales isn’t the big name fans were hoping for, but he’s certainly a big gamble.

O’Neil was the Mariners third best prospect, but it doesn’t mean the Mariners organization is that great. The Mariners added depth to an area they desperately needed it, and took it away from a position where they didn’t. At the time of the trade, O’Neil for Gonzales is simply, weird.

Mariners Deadline Lid-Lifter

Mariners Deadline Lid-Lifter

Finally, let’s talk trades.

The Seattle Mariners finalized a deal to bring David Phelps from the Miami Marlins for four prospects. Those prospects are centerfielder Brayan Hernandez, as well as pitching prospects Brandon Miller, Pablo Lopez, Lucas Schiraldi. Phelps isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018. If all goes well, he’ll be a Mariner through then.

Phelps has spent his career as a starter before being converted to a reliever. In 545 innings pitched, he’s accumulated a 3.90 earned run average, striking out 509 batters while walking just 211. He’ll be a useful asset out of the bullpen.

It’s an interesting move. When used correctly, the Mariners bullpen, is one of the best in baseball. Since the all-star break, the M’s have gone 5-1, with closer Edwin Diaz saving all five wins. It goes back further. Since May 25th, the bullpen’s 2.75 ERA is the best in baseball.

That’ll work.

The starting pitching causes more concern. Everyone knows that injuries have bothered the rotation all season. Yovani Gallardo has been moved to the bullpen. Sam Gaviglio was solid early, but lately hasn’t been great. He’s 0-4 with a 6.65 ERA over his last four outings.

As of today, the team doesn’t have a starter for Monday’s series opener against the Red Sox. Maybe the idea was to add to a strength of the team and make the game shorter for a starting rotation that hasn’t been much better than serviceable.

Regardless, General Manager Jerry DiPoto has lifted the lid on trade deadline moves in the Northwest. The Mariners are one and a half games behind the New York Yankees in the wildcard standings. The two teams start a four game series tonight.

For now, we’ll wait and see how this trade works for the Mariners.

 

Myself as a Mascot

Myself as a Mascot

If you ever have the opportunity to be a mascot, take it.

In the fall, I’ll be a senior at Pacific Lutheran University. I’m an assistant in the sports information office. Work is slow during the summer months. My bosses dangled extra hours above my head. I’m fairly money motivated, so the hours were tempting.

The only way I was going to make that money was by being Lance-A-Lute, the PLU mascot at the Triple A Home Run Derby at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. I was leaning towards doing it. Once they told me I’d be ‘competing’ in a mascot home run derby, I was all in.

The competition was going to be stiff. Blitz from the Seattle Seahawks was on hand. Cool Bird from the Thunderbirds was there. Rhubarb of the Rainiers was kind enough to host us. These guys were professionals, and I most certainly am not.

Before the derby started, Blitz made a remark on his 704 appearances he was scheduled to make this year. That’s insane. He also looked like he spent as much time in the gym as he had on appearances. Dude was buff.

As I got closer to my debut as a mascot, I continued to remind myself that no one could see who I was. They didn’t even know who I was to begin with. It was going to be fun to pretend to be something I’m not.

Our first assignment of the night was to go ‘shag’ baseballs in the outfield during the first round. The moment we left the locker room in costume, Blitz became Blitz. He walked with bounce, energy and enthusiasm. He clapped his hands, nodded his head and waved at every fan he saw. It was awesome.

I stumbled out of the locker room, adjusting to the goofy shoes I had to wear. It’s tough to see the ground while in the suit, which is a problem. Little kids love mascots. I had no idea they were underneath me at first.

It didn’t get real until a little boy approached me a pen and a baseball. He wanted Lance-A-Lute to sign his baseball.

What?

My mouth got dry as I nervously signed his ball. This kid had no clue who, or even what PLU is. It didn’t matter. He wanted autographs. He got them.

Shagging balls was an interesting experience. Professional baseball players were taking their best cuts while I stood with limited visibility in the possible path of the ball.

One ball was popped sky high. I followed the ball as it went up, but looked away. The ball dropped three inches to the left of me. I turned to some of the kids behind me and threw my hands out at them.

I was a little upset that no one had warned me that I was about to get drilled. Realistically, they probably would have told me heads up if they knew the name of the mascot costume I was in.

For the remainder of the first round, I spent my time getting out of the way of every ball I could. Blitz and Rhubarb were diving all over the field, attempting to make plays. There was no chance I was committing as much as they were.

The mascot home run derby happened just before the finals. It was explained that we would hit tennis balls off a tee from behind the pitchers mound. It was ruled a home run if the ball cleared the dirt on the infield.

Blitz was upset that we weren’t hitting from home plate. He went on to show video of how he hit legitimate homer at Safeco Field during Richard Sherman’s charity softball game.

I beat Blitz.

Blitz led off, trying crush tennis balls. It didn’t go well for him. I went second, taking a more relaxed approach to the plate. I did well and it felt good. I bat flipped after my round, because why not.

By the time our appearance was over, I was walking with a little bit of bounce. I got used to seeing the tops of little kids heads and waving in their direction. I had adjusted to the roll I was playing.

Before Monday night, I was weary of wearing the mascot suit. When Monday was done, I was thankful for the opportunity to do it. Technically, I competed at a Triple A home run derby. It was a fun night.

 

 

Former Mariners Turned Random All-Stars

Former Mariners Turned Random All-Stars

It’s hard to say goodbye in most cases. It wasn’t for me in 2015 when the Seattle Mariners finally parted ways with Justin Smoak. Smoak was an extremely average, switch-hitting first basemen in his time as a Mariner. It’s 2017, and Smoak is starting the all-star game for the American League as a Blue Jay. It’s tough to believe.

Average is the kindest way to describe Smoak as a Mariner. He spent 2010 through 2014 in  Seattle. In 2011, he had career highs in runs batted in with 55, and doubles with 24. In 2013, he hit 20 home runs, and hit .238, also career highs as a Mariner. The combined numbers of Adam Lind and Dae Ho Lee, the 2016 M’s platoon, blow him out of the water.

It’s strange. Last season, with Edwin Encarnacion in front of him, Smoak was a .217 hitter, who smacked 14 homers and 10 doubles on the year.  With a chance to play everyday, Smoak is batting .302 with 22 home runs and 12 doubles. He’s responsible for 52 runs the Blue Jays have scored.

Random.

Admittedly, Smoak is worthy of an all-star game appearance.

Something similar happened with another Blue Jay that was a Mariner previously.

Michael Saunders earned an all-star appearance in 2016 with what many thought to be a breakout year. His most significant time on the field came in 2012. A season in which he played 139 games and batted .247 with 19 homers and 31 doubles. The Canadian was incapable of staying healthy throughout his career.

Saunders earned a nod as an all-star in 2016, batting .298 while hitting 25 doubles and 16 home runs. Legitimately, those are all-star numbers. Saunders skidded hard in the second half of the season, finishing with a .253 batting average, 32 doubles and 24 dingers.

By the start of the 2017 season, Saunders signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. By the end of June, Saunders had been designated for assignment. He could be the most random all-star of all time.

Both Smoak and Saunders are former Mariners. Both were not anything special in their time in Seattle. The majority of Mariner fans weren’t upset to see either leave Seattle. The duo had somewhat random all-star nods. Saunders fell off hard. Will Smoak do the same? I mean, if history is a thing, probably.

Both of these guys appeared in an all-star game and it’s just as random now as it will be in the future.

Freedom & Free Passes

Freedom & Free Passes

July just started, so it’s time to celebrate freedom. In my book, it’s tough to find a holiday better than the Fourth of July. Sun is shining, beer is flowing and baseball is all over my TV screen. For the Seattle Mariners, two unassuming pitchers have been denying freedom this season, and it’s the only time I can dig it.

 

Sam Gaviglio is quietly putting up the best numbers amongst Mariner starting pitchers. The 27-year-old has made nine starts, throwing 51.2 innings. He’s gone 3-3 with a 3.48 earned run average. There is nothing intimidating about the rookies repertoire. He touches low 90’s, and allows hitters to make contact. He allows eight hits per nine innings, but it doesn’t prove catastrophic for Giviglio and his squad.

Arial Miranda wasn’t in the projected opening day rotation, but he probably should have been. The left hander has started 17 games, replacing Drew Smyly who will miss the remainder of the 2017 season, and most likely the start of 2018 after having Tommy John Surgery. Miranda is sitting 7-4 with a 3.82 ERA. Miranda gives up 7.1 hits per nine innings.

Both guys toe the line of staying in the strike zone too often. They give up a fair amount of hits, but hardly walk anyone. Gaviglio is giving up 2.8 walks per nine, while Miranda gives up 3.2 free passes per nine. If batters are getting on base, its by their own merit. Nothing comes free from Gaviglio or Miranda.

The Fourth of July is arguably the best holiday on the calendar. Everyone in the country gets to celebrate freedom. On the diamond, Gaviglio and Miranda have hardly given anything up for free. Low walk totals are the only form of oppression I can get behind.

 

 

 

 

Can the Mariners Live with Mike Zunino?

Can the Mariners Live with Mike Zunino?

Mike Zunino doesn’t fit into the brand of baseball the Seattle Mariners would like to put on the field, but they can live with it?

On June 7, 2017, Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino hit two home runs. The first happened in the third inning, getting the Mariners on the scoreboard. The second, was a two-run walk-off shot that gave the M’s a 6-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.

Zunino was drafted by the Oakland Athletes in the 29th round of the 2009 MLB draft. He chose to go to the University of Florida, where he improved his stalk. In 2012, se was drafted third overall by the Mariners. He made his Major League debut in 2013.

Throughout his career, Zunino has posted numbers that make you ask if he swings with his eyes close. He’s played 388 games, hitting .197 in 1246 at bats. He’s hit 54 home runs, but has struck out 457 times. He’s drove in 150 runs, but has only walked 85 times.

In each of the last two seasons, Zunino has spent time in Triple A Tacoma, working on his swing. The results haven’t changed much. He strikes out a ton and hits home runs on occasion. This is what Mike Zunino is.

As a team, the M’s have an on base percentage of .335, good enough for fifth best in the Majors. They’ve driven in 175 runs, good enough for ninth best. They don’t do it with the long ball, only hitting 65 homers through the first 61 games of the year.

Zunino doubled his 2017 home run total on June 7. If he runs into one every couple of games, it should be considered success for him.

Only time will tell if the M’s can live with Mike Zunino

Pitchers Not Pitches

To die hard fans, the beauty in baseball is that games take time. Average fans attending a Tuesday night game, may not have all night to watch a game. Commissioner Rob Manfred has used Minor League Baseball as a test lab to find out what would work in the Majors. Those changes in the Minor Leagues are having a minor effect on the intended goal.  

Six rule changes were implemented to the Arizona Fall league in 2014 to speed up the pace of play. The year prior, The average game with 77 plate appearances took 2:52 minutes. With new rules in place, the average game lasted 2:39 minutes. A whopping 13 minutes was shaved off. Worth it.

Fast forward to late 2016, when MLB voted one of those six rules to be adopted at the Major League level. The rule removed pitchers from physically throwing four balls in an intentional walks. In the 2016 season, there were 932 intentional walks. Amongst all games for all teams, that averages out to intentional walk every other game. Throwing four wide ones during an intentional walk takes one minute. That’s it.

In 1990, there were 1,384 intentional base on balls. That’s 452 less free passes on purpose than in 2016. There were 26 teams in 1990, four less than there are now. With fewer intentional walks happening every year, the timing of this rule change is odd. It’s change for change’s sake.

It’s not the pitching that’s holding up games, but the pitching changes. In 2016, the average team used 3.2 relief pitchers per game. That’s six pitching changes per game, counting both teams. With the 2:30 second limit to complete a pitching change, that’s nearly 15 minutes worth of empty time wasted. Add the 13 fewer minutes from 2014 AFL games, and a half an hour could be removed from baseball games. Now we’re talking.

Commissioner Manfred will never be able to limit the amount of pitchers team’s use in a game. The new intentional walk rule won’t do what it’s intended for. If baseball needs to move faster, the amount of pitchers needs to be limited, not pitches.

Mariner Fans, Pray for Pitching

Mariner Fans, Pray for Pitching

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in two weeks. It’s an exciting time of year, no matter what team your root for. Everybody is full of hope and optimism that their team can reach whatever goal they feel fair. Pacific Northwest baseball fans are anxious to see new additions to the Seattle Mariners. In 2017, Mariner’s fans should be praying for pitching.

In 2016, the starting pitching is what caused the Mariners to miss the post season by a two and a half games. The rotation was never healthy. The team was forced to use 13 starting pitchers. The woes started when Felix Hernendez went to the 15-day disabled list. Wade Miley followed suit. Nate Karns hit the shelf in July. Taijuan Walker was sent to Tacoma in August.

The Mariner offense was one of the best in baseball last season. The team hit the third most home runs in the league, swatting 223 balls over the wall. They drove in 735 runs (sixth), and had 768 runners (sixth) cross the plate.

Fans can’t help but fantasize about what could have been with healthy arms. Jerry DiPoto has retooled the pitching staff for 2017. Karns, Miley and most notably, Walker will wear different uniforms this season. He’s added Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo to go along with Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.

The King was dethroned by injury for the first time in his career in 2016. Hernandez went to the DL on June 1 with a calf injury. He missed a month and a half before returning to the Mariners. The King made 25 starts, posting an 11-8 record. He had a 3.82 earned run average over 153.1 innings. It was his highest ERA since his second full year in the bigs in 2007. He missed throwing 200 innings for the first time since he threw 190 innings in both of his first two seasons as a Mariner.

Fan’s are hopeful for a second coming worthy of praise.

Iwakuma was Seattle’s best starter last season. In 33 starts, Kuma was 16-12 with a 4.12 era. He threw 199 innings, striking out 147 betters while walking 46. Kuma’s ERA jumped .6 points from his last full season in 2014. He gave up  51 more hits in 2016 than he did in 2014.

Signs are showing that Kuma is on the downslope of his career as well. His health was crucial to the M’s being in a playoff race towards the end of 2016. That same consistency is the desired outcome for Iwakuma.

Paxton may have turned the corner in 2016. Between Triple A and the Majors, the Lefty pitched the most innings of his career, throwing 171 frames. Mariner coaches tweaked Paxton’s arm slot, and the results were great. He had a 3.79 ERA, throwing 117 strikeouts while walking 24 batters. The M’s need his fifth season in the bigs to be his best.

Smyly is searching for a second chance in Seattle. The left handed pitcher threw 175.1 innings, giving up a 4.88 ERA while going 7-12 for the Tampa Bay Rays. The guy throws strikes, punching out 552 batters while walking 161 in his big league career.

He’s been labeled as a fly ball pitcher, which should benefit him in spacious Safeco Field. Well, not exactly. Safeco was the best home run producing ball park last season. An average of 2.89 baseballs left the yard as 234 total dingers were hit. If Smyly can keep the ball low, he could be a useful addition to the club.

Gallardo rounds on the opening day starting five for the Mariners. At one point in his career, Gallardo was a Cy Young candidate. Before 2016, Gallardo consisted made more than 30 starts every year since 2009. Last season as an Oriole, he started 23 games, lasting just 118 innings.

Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have been mainstays in the Mariner offense the past two seasons. The team added the National League hits leader in Jean Segura over the offseason. They also added speed in Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger. The only questions fans should have is starting pitching.

So God, please help King Felix return to form. Help Iwakuma maintain the the level he’s pitched at. Please let Paxton continue to improve and perform all season long. Help Smyly keep the ball low in the zone, and let Gallardo have a bounce back season.

In Your name I pray, amen.

 

Taking a Walker to Arizona

Taking a Walker to Arizona

Taijaun’s taking a walk; he isn’t coming back.

On Wednesday, November 23, Mariners General Manager Jerry DiPoto sent Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to Arizona in exchange for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis. I’m not sad to see Walker leave.

For years, Walker was dubbed the Prince of Seattle. The right hander was supposed to be the protege to King Felix Hernandez. He played like a dunce.

Walker was drafted 43rd overall in 2010 amature draft out of Yupaica High School. He made a start in 2013, five more in 2014 before becoming a part of the rotation in 2015. In his first full seasons in the majors, Walker hasn’t had an earned run average under four.

How long does a player have unlimited potential, until they don’t? Walker showed above average velocity while working his way to the majors. Last season, he lost it. The fastball went from 95 miles per hour, down to 93. Hitters took advantage of it, as Walker gave up 129 knocks in just 25 starts. Over his career, He’s allowed more hits than strikeouts. Is he really capable of being a team’s ace? Doesn’t look like it.

Mariners fans should be rejoicing in this move made by DiPoto. Walker hasn’t shown signs of becoming the guy the pundits thought he could be. He spent time on the disabled list in June last season. He spent time in Triple-A last season. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. was always tweaking his delivery. 

Walker is only 24 years old, and will be when takes the mound in a Diamondback uniform next year. There is time for him to figure it out, but will he in Arizona?  I doubt it.

According to ESPN’s park factors, Arizona is the second best baseball stadium for hitters in the Major Leagues. Chase Field in Arizona featured a plus rating for hitters in home runs, singles, doubles, triples and walks. Almost every outcome a hitter can have, is in their favor in the Grand Canyon State.

With the core of the Seattle Mariner’s being in the prime of their career, Taijuan Walker doesn’t belong on a team. He can not help a team right now, and that’s what the M’s need to do.

There will be times when Mariners fance grimace when they see that he struck out 12 over eight innings of shutout ball. The bad far outweighs the good. Until then, Taijuan’s taking a walk and he’s leaving for good.